United Voters of India: The Logic of Collective Action (Part 16)

India’s Ruling Elite

India’s political and governing elite have prevented Indians from becoming prosperous. Ananth Nageswaran wrote recently in Mint: “Over the decades, Indian bureaucracy—Union, states and local—has honed its skills in tying the rest of the country down in non-productive endeavours into a fine art that very few countries can match. The operating principle in view is that the government does not trust citizens to do the right thing, forcing citizens to reciprocate that faith with their own creativity. Some give up. Some emigrate. Some co-opt the system. Many struggle throughout their lives to deal with the government machinery. It does not end even after their sojourn on earth ends. India’s regulatory, compliance and inspection frameworks are similar to an auto-immune disease that makes the human body’s defence system turn on the body instead of protecting it.”

The India taking shape in front of our eyes is one in which the very institutions that should safeguard the rights of the people are doing exactly the opposite. Pratap Bhanu Mehta wrote recently:

The language of order, and the pieties of the flag in which it is wrapped by the state and the media, is not about order at all. The language of order is partisan to the hilt. It is weaponised to crush dissent. It is used to empower repression. It is used to desecrate the spirit of constitutional values. But it gives even the supposedly most liberal amongst us the perfect pretext to rally behind the government once again. It gives a pretext to appease our consciences that we can ignore the systematic repression of civil liberties, the runaway crony capitalism, and the frightening communalism of the state, the criminalising of dissent, the desecration of federalism and the collapse of institutions. It allows us to ignore the fact that the most influential and powerful sections of society from legal professionals to academics and media, from owners of capital to bureaucracy, have connived in creating the conditions of disorder, by closing off legitimate channels of democratic deliberation, and actively supporting authoritarianism and communalism.

As I have written previously, India’s leaders and their decisions over the decades have doomed the people. Like the British, India’s leaders continue to divide and rule to craft their selectorate to stay in power. The courts, police and media become puppets of those in power. For people to co-ordinate their action was very difficult – so far. What GameStop and other protest movements in an eventful January are now demonstrating is that it can be done. What is needed is a platform like UVI to enable a coordinated collective to come together to break the centralised control a few politicians at the top have over an entire nation. The game is the same, the rules are the same; it’s time for a different strategy.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.